Thursday, April 18, 2013
consensus and decisionmaking
The Uniting church seeks to work by consensus. It relies on a lot of people working very hard, willing to listen deeply, and skillful chairing, to help the process. When it is found, especially in larger groupings, it is a joy to behold.
So here’s a really interesting counter view, from Michael Stiassny, at the Institute of Directors annual conference in New Zealand yesterday.
consensus allowed directors to hide from making tough decisions. “I think it is time we toughened up. We need to be stronger and share our views.” …. passionate people needed clear boundaries … boards and chief executives needed to have full and frank discussions … “If the chair and CEO are holding hands – how on earth are the board going to have a frank discussion?”
I’m not saying I like all the corporate language. Nor am I saying I agree. But it’s worth a read and to consider if at times, consensus leads to poorer decisionmaking and less truth telling in an organisation. Full article here.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Gender matters: Like the Wildeness of the sea, by Maggi Dawn
Gender matters. As I began to process my emerging church 10 years on data, I began to realise that gender matters – that in communities in which women led, women are more likely to grow; that in some denominations, most of the money invested in paid pioneers is invested in men; that some of the more interesting research I came across were into fresh expressions that were run by lay women.
So my sabbatical reading took a detour, into women’s faith development.
- was my data odd or does gender matter in faith development?
- Yes! In alienation, through awakenings, by relationality
- What do Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1, Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5, the slave girl in Philippi in Acts 16, Jarius daughter in the Gospels have in common?
- do women lead differently?
It is a theme that reemerges loud and clear in Maggi Dawn’s, Like the Wildeness of the Sea. Introduced as a book about women and bishops and the Church of England, it’s actually much more. It’s a book about the ability, or otherwise, of the church to be a flourishing place for gifted people.
What a different church it would be if all the gifts of its women were validated, and all their energy unleashed. If no more time was wasted discussing whether or not our place in church is valid, if no more goodwill dribbled away because of the despondency that follows from a dream being deferred, what a powerhouse of transforming social and spiritual power the Church might become. If this is to happen, though, it will demand more than a compromised measure through the system that gives an impression of permission to women. (Like the Wildeness of the Sea, 75)
And then this quote, which makes obvious that this is not only about ordination, but also about workplace cultures and habits.
what I would love my colleagues in the Church of England to know is this: I achieve twice as much in a working week as I did before. Why? Simply for this reason: none of my mental energy is wasted justifying my existence, surviving bullies, fending off harassment, or anticipating sexist behaviour. I don’t have to think about whether I should speak more loudly or more softly to gain permission to be heard. I don’t have to worry about whether my clothes will be thought too feminist or too feminine, or second-guess myself all the time to work out how to gain the space and the permission to do the job I’m appointed to. I just wake up every day feeling good, go to work full of energy, work hard all day, and come home, most days of the week, still smiling.
Because gender matters. Read it and weep. And dream. Like the Wildeness of the Sea, by Maggi Dawn
Friday, November 23, 2012
a woman on women bishops
Remarkable essay by Sarah Coakley, Anglican Priest and Systematic Theologian at Cambridge University on women bishops. (I’ve engaged with her work previously – When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer. And here in relation to indigenous relationships.) She points to the absurb lack of logic in ordaining priests while not allowing them to be bishops -”an offence to theological truth, a running sore of incoherence in our theological life-world without whose resolution and healing no other, related, theological project in our Church can I believe go forward and flourish.”
What is fascinating is her demand for theological rigour and depth with the tradition of the church, yet in a way that (to my reading) is still giving enormous permission to fresh expressions.
Hooker’s perspective does indeed allow for novelties in the rational reception of Bible and tradition: the plastic nature of Hooker’s conception of reason, and its deep understanding of historical embeddedness, does allow for creative development in response to the primacy of Scriptural authority and the deposit of tradition, without the danger of a merely historical or moral relativism. There is nothing in Hooker, then, that would give credence to the slogan that “nothing new is ever true.” But there is everything to suggest the possibility of hopes for future creativity and renewal.
In other words, (my words) being “traditional” is never an excuse to block innovation. Rather being “traditional” is to be innovative, to expect a great depth of creativity, that emerges from the hard work of understanding context and one’s roots.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
learning through listening
The last few months have included settling into a new role as Principal. The College has a team of 12 and we’ve all gone through the adjustment of a person within the team becoming a leader in the team.
One of my first goals was to find time to connect with the team. I did this by booking some time with each person to listen. I had four questions, which I’ve asked each person. I’d thought long and hard about what I wanted to ask. Here’s what I crafted.
- Tell me about your sense of call (given I wasn’t part your interview as you began work at Uniting College)
- Imagine a bathtub. It can be emptied, through a plug hole. It can be filled, through a tap. As you think about your sense of call, what about Uniting College enhances your sense of call?
- What about Uniting College drains that sense of call?
- Since I’m new, tell me what responsibilities and priorities you have with us?
I let the whole team know this process was happening before I began. I also let them know as a whole team the questions. I took them individually to a local cafe and listened.
It’s been gold. Absolutely gold. As a team member commented recently, I learnt more in 60 minutes than 3 years of corridor conversations. It was true.
People have felt affirmed. Often there’s been new insights for them, fresh connections about their unique fingerprint and how it’s being inked. I’ve gained perspectives on the organisation that I never would have had otherwise.
If mission is finding out where God is up to and joining in, then the first task of mission is listening. In this case, to people in our teams.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
colour wheeling into formation for ministry
Yesterday I spent an hour sharing the big picture of formation for ministry as we currently understand it at Uniting College. The thing that generated the most energy in the candidates seemed to be a colour wheel.
I began with two quotes, taken from our Formation Panel handbook:
“Ministerial formation is first of all an aspect of Christian formation; growing as a disciple of Christ and serving God in the world. It includes transformation, taking in the likeness of Christ as we respond to God’s work of renewing creation. Ministerial formation is grounded in formation for discipleship.” (Formation Panel Handbook, 2)
“Ministerial formation is a life-long process. It involves the whole person – integrating his or her spiritual life, knowledge, skills, attitudes, personal priorities and health.” (2)
After some interaction about our individual uniqueness, I suggested that one way to clarify formation for ministry was to see it as having three parts
- study – lectures and topics
- ministry practice – engagement in ministry
- formation – the processes by which we are shaped organically
I had lots of colour wheels scattered around the space. Folk were invited to choose three colours, to fit them together and to think about their formation. When they first began to sense a call to ministry, how much study had they done, how much ministry practice had they been engaged in, how much life formation had happened?
As they shared in pairs, the insights began to emerge.
But hey, the two of us – we’re different. Exactly. Formation is a unique process.
The colour wheel moves. It changes. But so do I! Exactly, the seasons of our lives might well invite different patterns of formation.
Which allowed a rich conversation. About what we provide at College, an ideal framework that might be a way to ground and make ministerial formation practical – topics to study and different ways to engage ministry practice and various intentional experiences.
But how this could never be a strait-jacket, a one-size fits all approach. Because each of us come with different range of experiences. So each of us need a different type of course experience. Which requires a lot of discerning together. Which takes time. And gets messy.
But how else can we take the unique and individual processes of formation seriously? And all around the room, people gently wheeled their colours into formation for ministry.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
the colours of formation
“Ministerial formation is a life-long process. It involves the whole person.” (This quote comes from our Uniting College Formation Panel handbook.)
That is so provocative. How does what a theological college offers give expression to what is life-long and embodied? It is so tempting to assume those who join us are blank slates, in whom we need to download everything they need. It is equally tempting to assume that we have more influence than reality, because a person has countless influences in their lives outside of the theological college experience – family, friends, sport, church – that makes them who they are.
So how does ministerial formation respect the past and integrate the whole? One way to conceptualise this is through categories of theological study, ministry practice and formation. To seek to place equal weight on class, experience and the non-formal practices and disciplines.
Which got me thinking colours. You see, part of the whole person is our visual and our sensory. Part of the whole person means thinking not only in words, but also in colours.
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is theological study?
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is ministry practice?
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is formation?
Friday, October 26, 2012
faith formation for leaders in mission: hitting the time capsule
In a few weeks, I have to “vision cast,” present a “big picture” to our Uniting church candidates on the topic – academic formation. I’ve been wondering what to say.
Some 6 years ago, I was asked to engage a similar topic while a lecturer at Laidlaw College. It’s interesting to read now what I wrote then, to enter the time capsule, the denominational time capsule, the contextual (Aotearoa New Zealand to Australia) time capsule. Here is my big picture of faith formation some six years ago …
I turned to Pauls autobiography in Galatians 1:13-18. I pointed out the factors at work in the Pauls storytelling;
- text knowledge; “advancing in Judaism”
- church knowledge; “traditions of my ancestor”
- human experience; the Damascus Road
- processing space; “after three years”
- community engagement; “acquainted with Cephas.”
I suggested that [Pauls faith was] re-integrated. He was taking processing time to reconsider text and church in light of human experience. He was processing in community, checking his re-integration with Peter.
And this mix of experience; text; processing; community was life changing for Paul and moved him into ministry.
Considering church and human experience allow him to integrate his past and his emotions; Considering text knowledge allows him to integrate his intellect and build depth and continuity; Processing allows him nuance and insight; Engagement with Peter in community processing keeps him down to earth and people focused.
This was integrating faith; text; church; experience; processing; community
All of us are like Paul; we bring human experiences, we bring church experiences, we have engaged with texts of Bible, history, culture.
And now we become aware of the gift of processing space and the gift of community engagement. So in fact, going to a bible college could, like Paul, be a life-changing experience.
(Full post six years ago here)
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
leadership as health intensives
Very excited about our two upcoming November leadership intensives – exploring leadership as health, and the practices needed to make possible communities that are mission-driven, innovative, discerning and culturally engaged.
Heathy Church / Healthy Organisation – For leaders, lay or ordained, on building healthy, missional churches or organisations. Lecturers: Craig Bailey, Carolyn Kitto, Steve Taylor. 12-23 November. Weekdays 9am-12pm
Leadership as Discernment: Participants will apply a communal discernment process to their own context, engage key readings in communal discernment and mission, and explore the Manual for Meetings as a discernment tool. Lecturer: Beatrice Panne. 27-29 November, 9am-1pm.
It’s a continued roll out of from our Leadership stream, wanting to take leadership beyond pragmatics and theory and into a spirituality grounded in life. For more information go here.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
the feelings of ministry: a Pauline soul window
In this new season as Principal of Uniting College, I’m working my way slowly through 2 Corinthians, wanting to explore spirituality for mission and the inner life of leadership. Today, reading 2 Corinthians 7, as a study exercise, I began to list all the “feeling” words.
It strikes me as an astonishing list, a window onto the inner life, the humanity, the emotions of leadership and ministry. I love the way that 2 Corinthians moves between theology and practice, between wonderful theologies of mission and the reality of life.
This list needs to be placed alongside my recent thinking about the place of emotion in formation for ministry and mission. How do we enable leaders to discern God in the midst of this range of emotion? How do we ensure resilience? How do we cultivate classes and learning experiences that will be as emotionally rich as Paul’s experience of ministry?
Thursday, August 09, 2012
this is the house the team built
I led my first ever team retreat day today at Uniting College. We began with a focus on our giftedness.
In preparation, I had given each of the team a wooden shape (found in the craft section at Spotlight last week). I had then asked each of us to come to the retreat prepared to share three things we think we bring to the Uniting College team. To enhance collegiality, we had also drawn the names of one other person on the team out of a hat last week and been invited to come prepared to share three things they brought to the team.
Today the process went as follows
- each person shared the 3 things they thought they brought
- each person placed their wooden shape on a table in the middle
- each person heard from another in the team what they brought
Which left us feeling vulnerable in sharing and affirmed in hearing. And a pile of wooden shapes on the table.
As I had hoped, over a break, a group gathered around the table and began trying to fit them together. Which they did – into table and chairs. Working together, we became something greater than the sum of our individuality.
Which then produced a great discussion (ie spontaneous yet planned learning moment). About how a team is more than just a pile of gifted individuals who happen to be in the same place. About how a piece was missing – because a team is always losing people and gaining people, always needing to rebuild. About how if their was no missing piece, then the team would be perfect and there would no room for growth and development.
Leading team building retreats creatively. I think it’s one of the gifts I bring to a team
Monday, August 06, 2012
the potential of limits for creativity
“We’ve always used the limitations of the band as a creative tool almost.”
It’s a fascinating quote by U2′s The Edge, in which limits and limitations are realised as essential in the creative process.
Twice recently I’ve seem limitations unleash creativity. Here’s one moment.
On Thursday I led the team through a creative brainstorming process. I was greeted with the news as I became Principal that heading into 2013 we as a College needed to generate another $100,000. We discussed this as a team and decided this was a “we” challenge, rather than an “I” or a “they” challenge.
In other words, rather than give it to a single person or a representative group, this was a challenge we wanted to face together.
We agreed to a process. We would go away for a week to prayer and ponder. We would each return to share one idea, along with a monetary figure. It was one of the best meetings I’ve been part of in a long time, with a range of outstandingly creative ideas placed on the table. We are now work shopping each of the ideas. But if even half of them came to reality, we would be a very, very different College.
The limits – of funds – had opened up our collective creativity.
Often we imagine that creativity emerges when we have unlimited time and unlimited resources. Perhaps the converse is true – that creativity materialises when we have limits, and when these limits are faced in community.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Note to self: Rules of thumb for change agents
I was looking through some old lecture notes (2008) and I found these notes, a sort of “rule of thumb for change agents.” I’ll spend the week walking around it, kicking the tires, reflecting on how they sit in my current context.
But for the record, I’ll also post it here.
• Stay alive – care for yourself and keep a life
• Start where the system is – empathy for the group and the people
• Look for green zones – places of promise
• Innovation is as simple as a good idea, initiative and a few friends – work with the willing
• Celebrate well – build in lots of success milestones
• Light many fires – utilise the complexity of any group by seeking movement in as many places as possible
• Keep optimistic – with a focus on the better future
“Rules of thumb for change agents”, a chapter by Shepard in Organization Development Classics, 1997.)
Saturday, July 28, 2012
spirituality in mission
Not merely by the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed
It is a beatific smile?
A holy light upon your brow?
Oh, no – I felt His presence while
You laughed just now
Beatrice Cleland, in David Bosch’s, A Spirituality of the Road 56
This offers a way to understand a spirituality for mission, the way Christ is transfused among people, across cultures. Missiologist David Bosch suggests a number of ways to frame this. He contrasts a pipe with a branch.
Regarding the pipe
We often call ourselves channels or instruments which God uses to communicate His message to people. Our understanding of such a channel usually is that of clean water pipe which does nothing but allow an unrestricted flow of water. In order to guarantee this flow, the channel or pipe has to be cleaned regularly. Transposed to the missionary sphere the suggestion seems to be that the message has got to be kept aseptic in the process of communication. It should in no way be contaminated but remain absolutely pure. (A Spirituality of the Road, 41)
Regarding the branch
He draws from John 15, the image of the vine and branches.
A channel remains unaffected by what flows through it, but a branch has, first of all, to absorb the nutritive power which comes to it from the roots and trunk. It has to make all this a part of itself, and allow itself to be affected, and renewed and transformed by that power. Only after having assimilated such energy can the branch impart it to the fruit.” (A Spirituality of the Road, 42)
I think this intersects with what I was reflecting on earlier this week, reading Matthew 9:36ff, reflecting on the importance of emotions in the mission of God and the formation of people. A pipe suggests our mission, our engagement with people, should be free of emotions, cleansed of us. A branch suggests that our emotions are essential, are part of the God transfusion. This is a much deeper, much more interesting way to understand our growth as humans, and the formation of leaders. It is consistent with Jesus, in whom emotions of compassion, anger, joy, were not “cleansed” but were integrated into acts of commission, prophetic justice and partying at weddings.
It suggests a theology of Incarnation and embodiment, that the mission and message of God can only be communicated through and in us, in our emotions and being and bodies.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
how do you how grow emotions of Jesus? a question of Principal (4)
This continues my “As an incoming Principal, I have plenty of questions” series – questions that I ponder as I begin a new role as Principal at Uniting College. (First question, with some responses is here, here and here).
Here is the fourth question I’m asking
How do you grow compassion (and other emotions like joy, anger, sorrow and love for people)?
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus had compassion. The result is commission to mission, prayer that workers will be sent into the harvest. Doesn’t that become a way of understanding a College? That it engages compassion (and other emotions), as part of the educative and transformative act?
According to Matthew Elliott
“The theologies of the New Testament, as we have seen, do not do a good job in incorporating emotion into their framework. As it is in secular ethics, in New Testament ethics and theology emotion is often belittled, trivialized or ignored.” (Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament 256).
So that is a direct challenge to any College (course, sermon, preacher) – the claim that the ways it has taught (“theologies of the ….”) have not engaged the whole person.
According to adolescent psychologists, Haviland-Jones, Gebelt and Stapley
“We usually think of learning how not to be emotional rather than whether or not emotions are being refined and transformed to mature forms.”
So emotions can be, should be, part of the educative process. You should be able to point to intentional ways that emotions are being transformed, just the way you can point to growth in theology of mission or skills in preaching.
Reading the Gospels over the last few years, I’ve been struck by the feelings of Jesus, wondering what I might learn from God who experienced sorrow, crying, radical love, anger, compassion. And now, the question of Principal emerges – how do you grow compassion (and other emotions like joy, anger, sorrow and love for people)?
As I read the Biblical narrative of Matthew 9:35-38, I am intrigued by how the feelings of Jesus shaped his development of leaders. And what that might mean for Principal, staff and students, curriculum and common rooms, chapels and classes.
For more on some of my earlier reflections on feelings of Jesus
- and mission here
- some leadership reflection here